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Game Breakdown: State Stumbles in Loss to Illinois

NC State Basketball

Game Breakdown: State Stumbles in Loss to Illinois

NC State looked pretty darn bad in their loss to Illinois on Tuesday in their ACC/Big Ten matchup. When the dust settled, the Pack had lost 88-74.

So what went wrong?

— Defensively, this team needs an identity

Wow. NC State’s defense is very, very concerning. I think, defensively, most of the guys are showing good effort, however, fundamentals, communication, and anticipation on that end of the floor is non-existent.

After the game, both Torin Dorn and Ted Kapita sounded off about the team’s effort on defense. Both made it clear that this team needs to work harder and get smarter on the defensive end. This is true, but how do they do it?

They need to figure out who they are defensively. What is thier identity? Are they a team that sits back and plays position defense? Never reaching, never infiltrating the passing lanes on the perimeter? This style of defense doesn’t get many turnovers, but it does force tougher shots. It’s of the thinking that if they are going to get beat they are going to get beat by teams that shoot it well over top of them. This defense is usually more for teams that like a slower pace and can execute well in the 1/2 court on offense. If you ask me, this does not suit this NC State team.

This team is one that is going to gamble. They are going to jump passes and look to get out and run. That is fine, but that comes with a few caveats.

1) You need strong, solid interior defense. You can’t have a bunch of gambling guards and bunch of block hungry bigs. You need your bigs to be space eaters, who make it tough to get easy buckets in the lane (without fouling). This type of defense puts pressure on the bigs, and requires them to be quick to the spot, anticipate faster, and be more about altering shots than blocking them.

2) You need to pick your spots. If a guard gambles, they have to weigh the situation. Every gamble, every little reach, or pass jumped needs to be thought about situationally. Is it a good time to take a gamble? How badly to we need a stop? Do we drastically need a momentum change? This is where your guards have to be smart in understanding the risk vs the rewards on defense. Every time you get out of position by reaching, breaking on a pass or leaving your feet on a pump fake/shot, you are putting your teammates in a vulnerable position. They are forced to play 4 on 5 until you can recover.

3) You need good communication for fast rotation and recovery. As laid out in the last section, every time you gamble to you  create a situation of help and recover. As a guard, when you reach and get out of position you are now demanding help, usually it’s from a big stepping up to stop the drive. When he steps up, his man is going to dive to the hoop. You need your wings to see this, anticipate this and be able to drop down and fill that space before the ball handler can drop it off to the ‘help man’s’ guy. But then you have an open wing guy. So you need either the next in rotation to take that guy, or you need the guy who gambled to recover. Team defense is complicated, it takes 5 men working together, with constant communication and a lot of talking. It takes knowing your teammates and knowing your rotations. All of this because you wanted to reach for a steal. So was it worth it? Was all of that confusing worth the gamble? That is what the NC State guards need to get better at deciphering.

So what went right?

So there actually was some good news on the night. Let’s run down that list.

– Torin Dorn scored 17 points, was 7-11 from the floor and 3-4 from 3pt range. He was the star of this game and continues to be State’s most consistent scorer.

– Abu shot the ball well. You want Abu showing teams that he can knock down the 15-20 footer, but really you only want this so they press up on him, which would allow him to beat his man off the dribble. Hopefully. tonight is the beginning of Malik finding his stroke, but let’s hope it also doesn’t end up with him falling in love with jumpers. Then again, if he’s making them I guess we’ll take it. Abu finished with 16 points and 5 boards (6-9 shooting).

– Ted Kapita put in 28 solid minutes. 13 points and 5 boards. He and Abu are a nice combo for this squad, but fouls keep them from being on the floor much at the same time. Kapita is showing nice touch around the rim, good effort and tons of intensity. The only knock on him right now is his passing. He’s seeing the open man, but he’s having trouble with the delivery. With only a few games under his belt, we believe he’ll continue to improve here.

– 12-13 from the free throw line. There is no way around it, being great from the line is going to be huge when ACC play comes around. is an independently run content site that exclusively covers NC State basketball and football. Started in late 2007 by two former students with the goal of integrating the latest in web content delivery into a Wolfpack sports site, free of charge to the user.



  1. wolfpack74

    December 2, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    The picture says it all. He has no concept of what’s going on defense. His defense is the guy that’s taking the ball out of the basket and throwing it in. Hire a defensive minded assistant and then stay away from them. Go recruiting, that’s all you can do.

  2. WolfPack

    December 1, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Gott, You are awesome recruiter. Keep recruiting, but we need to hire someone who can actually coach defense to team. We need system. We need discipline. We need Communication. We need defensive scheme.

    Stop with this non sense of free style defense. There are no such thing as free style defense. Defense is fruit of disciplined team effort.


    December 1, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Coach Gott,

    Everyone knows you can produce great guards. Work on getting our big me above average.


  4. John

    December 1, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Great analysis

  5. Ian

    December 1, 2016 at 1:17 am

    wolfpack74, consider how young this team is and how sometimes, there are five players on the floor who are playing together in their first season together. It’s a whole nother level they need to adjust to. No one’s arguing with you that the team needs to play better defense but it’s early still. A new coach? Please!

  6. wolfpack74

    November 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    You start by getting another coach. Or getting an assistant that can coach defense.

    • FireDebbie

      December 1, 2016 at 12:42 am

      If I was AD I would be having a little chat with Coach after that loss. Team is so undisciplined ridicules!! Just like the football team.

    • bornwolfpacker

      December 1, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      Agreed. If the head coach isn’t strong in an area of the court (Gott doesn’t seem to be strong anywhere but recruiting) then you get assistant coaches who are better. This of course doesn’t look good for the head coach who’s getting paid a ton of money but why not even out the pay a little to have a better assistant coach.

  7. yakima2k

    November 30, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Losing on the road with basically a 6 man rotation is forgivable. And a lot of the turnovers in the first half seemed related to nervous energy – I suspect that problem will fix itself. I’m sad about Anya; what a disappointment he is for the program and his teammates. For someone of his size and potential, as a senior, to not be able to rebound or defend his position is depressing.

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